Moawiya Saleh Al Shunnar, aged 15, is believed to be the youngest UAE national to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa standing at 5895m and the highest free standing mountain in the world. It is one of the “Big 7” worldwide peaks to be conquered globally.
Moawiya is currently a Year 11 student at Dubai English Speaking College (DESC) in Dubai where he is in the last year of his 2 year GCSE syllabus.
He has always been an active boy with interests in Tennis, Tang Soo Do (black belt), football, basketball and horse riding. He also plays: piano and guitar and enjoys chess. And of course, as with all teenagers, electronics & computers make up an essential part of his entertainment.
The idea of climbingMount Kilimanjarocame from his father who encouraged him to go on this adventure which was organized by Rahhalah, who are experts in adventure travel. Moawiya had just completed his bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award at school which included an expedition into the mountains ofOman, and so he saw this as a great challenge and adventure.
Moawiya left for Kilimanjaro on 21 August 2012 where they stayed at a lodge for 2 nights before starting the ascent on 23 August with his group. They hiked several thousand meters everyday over many hours, and camped in tents for 7 nights. They reached the summit of 5895m above sea level on 29 August 2012. The group started with 15 people. Although 5 people dropped out on the way, Moawiya and the others made it. The climate started very pleasant at the bottom of the mountain, but continued to get colder & wetter every day, as they climbed higher.
The feeling of elation at reaching the top is very memorable, & brings with it a flood of emotions & memories of the challenges & obstacles encountered along the way, as it is the journey that really stands out, & that will be remembered in the future, more so than the summit. The greatest challenges were getting physically fit for the climb especially without knowing what to expect, including the cold. Temperatures at the top were -15 to -20 degrees Celsius, compounded with only 50% the level of oxygen at sea level in addition to the sheer exhaustion of such a climb.
Moawiya highly recommends the trip to others and especially likeminded teenagers BUT he does however stress the need to be mentally and physically fit & ready before trying this challenge. Additionally, it is important to climb with the right group leaders and organizers whose primary focus is safety.. At the same period but in a different group, a teenage girl died while trying to reach the summit, because her group considered reaching the summit as more important than the group’s safety. So as with all sports & activities, safety should always be paramount.
Above is the story of an amazing experience and a life transforming experience of a 15 year old UAE National.